Fab Five Books

A Magical Eveningdinner

A roundtable discussion with the authors of five books that captured my attention and held it page after page, and long after I returned the book to the shelf. (It was hard to list only five and even then my list is not complete.)

The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy
Désirée by Annemarie Selinko
The Cat and Mrs. Carey by Doris Gates
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
The Eight by Katherine Neville

I asked Alice B. Toklas to cater the evening and Gertrude Stein to chair the discussion. As most of the authors are no longer of this earth, Ms. Stein suggested we meet in her flat on the Left Bank of Paris at 27 rue de Fleurus.

It was a lively crowd and lengthy discussion, which only ended after Alice served the morning coffee following what I can only describe as a magical night. Sadly, I can only share the highlights of my evening of a lifetime.

“Brenda, this is your night. What did you want to accomplish?” Gertrude asked.


And so the night began. I was aflutter with butterflies as you might imagine.


“Are we your favorite writers?”  Mr. Chandler wanted to know.

“Each of you authored books that I love.”

“Of all the books ever written, this is the extent of your list? It’s not extensive, my dear.   Alice chirped from the back of the room.

“Hush, Alice.” Gertrude cut in.

“I know my list is a poor sampling, but I chose these stories because they both inspired and taught me something about writing and myself.”

“Excuse me, but I feel woefully inadequate. I wrote a children’s book that is no longer in print and not of the caliber of Mr. Chandler’s The Long Goodbye.  Mr. C, beautiful work, by the way.”

“Why, thank you.” Raymond smiled before taking a long drag of his unfiltered cigarette.

“Mrs. Gates —“ I interjected.

“–Please, call me Doris.”

“Doris, of all the books I ever read, yours was the first to inspire me. It has a talking cat, there’s a mystery, a lonely widow, and best of all it has a happy ending. The Cat and Mrs. Cary ignited my passion for reading.”

“Alice, give Doris a box of tissue, she’s tearing up.”  Instead of tissue, Alice gave Doris a glass of sherry. It’s not what Gertrude asked, but then Alice was always a free thinker.

“Little lady, tell me how you made the jump from talking cats to a cattle drive from Texas to Montana?” Larry asked between sips of single malt. “Call me Larry.”

“Thanks, Larry.  I honestly do not know. I had never read a book like yours. Sure, I have seen The Searchers and Shane, dozens of times, but I had no interest in reading a western novel. All I can tell you is that once I picked it up I couldn’t put it down.”

“How does that inspire you, dear—“

“–Alice!” Gertrude snipped.

“The characters never left me. Even now, I can still hear Peaeye talking to Gus. Not to mention Captain Call.” I turned to face Mr. Conroy. “Prince of Tides had the same affect on me.”

“To some readers, I am an acquired taste.”

“So I’ve heard but I love your work. It’s your usage of language, that and the way Tom Wingo comes alive on the first page when he says, “My wound is my geography,” you had me at the end of that sentence.” Pat winked at me.

“I’m feeling faint.”  Charlotte whispered from the corner.

“ Have a glass of sherry, dear, it will relax you immensely.”

“Alice, she might prefer a cup of—“

“–Nonsense, Gertrude.” Alice turned to me, “Brenda, it does seem to me your favorite stories, how shall I word this—“

“–Spit it out, Alice. You always do.”

“Yes, G, I do have a way.  Brenda, the novels you call your favorites have nothing in common.  I took the liberty of reading each one of them before you came. What, pray tell, does Jane Eyre have in common with The Eight?”

“From Miss Brontë’s, Jane, I discovered the romantic in me. Hers, like the other stories, including Ms. Neville’s, are about the human spirit and how it endures despite, or maybe in spite of, our personal tragedies.  There’s an indescribable beauty in that. You’re right, though, Alice, each of the books I’ve listed are as different as their creators.

And my magical evening went on and on.


Writer Beverly tagged in me the Fab Five. You’ll find a great list to pick from as well as a wonderful writer with a strong wit and big heart.  Edith’s – Room of My Own – Fab Five list is far loftier than my own, have a look, and you won’t be disappointed. I was remiss in asking others to participate, other than Monica – please visit her site. She is a fabulous storyteller.  If you are interested in sharing, then TAG, you’re it.


If you were boarding a slow boat to China tomorrow, what’s the first book you’d pull off the shelf to take along with you on the journey?

ps: I am behind in reading and commenting on your Blogs, even my own. Bear with me, I promise I’ll get there before the weekend is out (I am desperately trying to finish a WIP by the end of the month and time is at a premium).  xox Brenda

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I’m a writer and hoarder of one-size-fits-all panty hose. Until the hose fits over my bum, I write to provide an alternative view on writing and perfection.

42 thoughts on “Fab Five Books

  1. How to choose the one book to take with me on a slow boat to China . . . What a challenge, Brenda! Every summer I feel the need to re-read Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird (OK – the first book I would choose) and Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea. But there’s something delicious about discovering a wonderful new author, a new book on a long voyage. I like to be open to meeting great new friends in my travels ~
    Nancy recently posted….C is for Catching Carnival Fever in RioMy Profile

    • Nancy, I’ve not read your book of choice, but bet it would open the mind to dreaming of great flights. How is the blog a day going? I have already failed at writing a poem a day. OH well!

  2. Love your picks, Brenda. Hmm, my favorite all time books? The Great Gatsby, Catcher in the Rye, Anna Karenina, Percy Jackson and the Titan’s Curse, and Crescendo. Okay, so the last two aren’t classics but in my mind they should be. 😉
    Kelly Hashway recently posted….Unexpected Release Day PartyMy Profile

    • Martha – Both are good authors for a long journey, although heavy going. I’d think I’d take something lighter, to keep my mind off the rocking of the boat. :-)

  3. Another great post Brenda. Ye gods, but how I love the way you take something and turn it into an original idea all of your own. Just brilliant my dear, just brilliant! And here’s to sherry instead of tea (though to be perfectly honest, I can’t stand the stuff..still it does contain alchohol which is infinitely superior to caffeine in rejuvenating any flagging spirits….
    And f you require any help in the form of another set of eyes to cast a look upon your magnus opus, attach it to an e-mail and I promise to be both swift and kind! :) Good luck! xxx
    Edith recently posted….Tania Pryputniewicz on the Art and Craft of Transformative Blogging–Part TwoMy Profile

    • Thanks, Edith. I had to hand my head in shame since you beat me to posting, but then again, I had to accept I wasn’t ready to post. I’m with you when it comes to Sherry, but it seems perfect for the time. You are too kind, always. xo

    • Claire – I have Anna Karenina on my list. I bought a couple of years ago and so far it’s remained a good intention, yet I managed to reread Jane Eyre and Gone with the Wind, again.

    • Bev, I had problems with which books, leaving off Gone with the Wind, and To Kill a Mocking Bird, and on and on, it was a tough post to write, honestly. Of course, I was thinking of Gertrude’s dinner parties when I wrote this, which worked out well.

  4. I would invite Zora Neale Hurston to discuss Their Eyes Were Watching God, James Baldwin to discuss Go Tell it on the Mountain, Anne Rice to discuss The Feast of All Saints, Colin Channer to discuss Satisfy My Soul, and Donna Tartt for the Secret History. I would have Toni Morrison as the moderator.

    • Hi Dera, thanks for stopping by. A discussion with Ms. Rice, would be interesting. I read ‘The Feast of All Saints’ several years back, oh and Donna Tartt, what a haunting story.

    • Jen – I have loved Jane ever since the first time I read it. She wrote one of the best first person narratives I have read, not to mention the most romantic stories ever (my opinion, anyhow). You slow boat choices are interesting, both men are captivating, but I am not sure they’d be my first choices for a long journey.

  5. I love the creative way you discussed your favorite books. What a great dinner party. I did a top five on my blog last year, which ended up being a top six. They were Beloved (Toni Morrison), Memoirs of a Survivor (Doris Lessing), Slaughterhouse Five (Kurt Vonnegut), The Stand (Stephen King), Jude the Obscure (Thomas Hardy), and Dune (Frank Herbert)

    • Adriene – Gracias. I think the beauty of having a blog is that it’s uncharted territory and we can do what we want with it, thus I endeavor to paint vividly on my landscape.

  6. Dinner party with my fave 5:

    Margaret Atwood — ‘The Handmaid’s Tail’ (and others)
    J.M. Lee — ‘Echoes of Thunder’
    Louisa May Alcott — ‘Little Women’, ‘Little Men’, ‘Jo’s Boys’
    Ursula Hegi — ‘Stones from the River’ (and others)
    Walter Wangerin, Jr. — ‘The Book of the Dun Cow’

    One caveat: I actually had the opportunity to meet the author of one of my very favorite books when we were ‘coincidentally’ featured in an art exhibit together. I was thrilled at the time and we became friends. The more we got to know each other the more I realized that admiring someone’s creative work does not necessarily translate into compatibility in relationship. I almost wish we’d never met so I could still enjoy my ‘crush’ from afar…

    • Linda – It was delightful to speak finally. I’ve a couple of the books you listed. It’s always intriguing to me what inspires a person, what is it about the work that appealed. I know what you mean about an artist as a person, and their art. I never want to know about them personally. I love Van Morrison’s work, but when I read about him as a person, I was kid of disappointed. Now, I keep his music in my heart and avoid reading about him and others.

  7. Brenda,
    Thank you for tagging me on this. If there’s anything I love more than writing it’s great literature. And you’ve been so clever as to carry on a dialogue with the authors of your favorite books. I once did something similar by “interviewing” Charles Dickens, but I don’t think I could imagine writing an exchange with all five at once. Really love how you handled it. Nice! Now, just give me a few weeks to write up mine. :)
    monicastangledweb recently posted….Lightning in a Jar: In Like a LionMy Profile

    • Monica, it’s always a pleasure when you share with me, and I wanted to return the favor. Thanks for the words, it wasn’t what I started out to write, but it’s where I ended up.

  8. What a fun idea – what a great twist! You’re always so good for that – one of many reasons I love stopping in. I just read, The Age Of Desire – a fiction piece about Edith Wharton where she has conversations with other authors of the time and a juicy affair – and read, not too long ago, The Paris Wife, a fiction piece about Ernest Hemingway and his conversations, musings and writing with other writers of the time and in his circles were part of the story too – you are every bit as much entertaining.
    Barbara recently posted….April. Salem. PoetryMy Profile

    • Barbara – I think of my blog as a playground where there are no rules, critics, or teachers giving me an assignment that I have no interest in completing. This makes blogging fun. I can’t tell you how often I’ve picked up The Paris Wife but have yet to read it. I read Ms. Warton’s book ages ago, definitely worth a re-read.

  9. It’s so hard to pick just one! If I were to take a long boat ride to China..hmm…I would take the Bhagavad Gita As It Is, as I’ve only read it once and there’s so much wisdom packed into it that it would definitely keep me busy and spiritually nourished on the trip!
    Loved your post!
    Jessica recently posted….This Moment: A Friday TraditionMy Profile

    • Jessica, I wondered about that book. I’ve actually picked it up, but promptly put it back. One day maybe. Thanks for your kind words.

  10. I could just picture you there on the Left Bank with your friends. What a time! Thanks for this very, very clever post! I’ll be taking Honoré de Balzac’s La Comedie Humaine ( … how slow is that boat anyway?), a large French dictionnaire, and an enormous box of bonbons. If nothing else, I expect to make it all the way through the bonbons.
    Patricia Sands recently posted….Time to celebrate!My Profile

    • Patricia – It’s a scene that has stayed with me ever since I read the Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. I know many have written about that time, and there is controversy, but none of that diminishes my curiosity. Your slow boat book is something else. Now the bonbons I understand.

  11. –Can you believe I haven’t read any of your picks? I trust your suggestions VERY VERY VERY much. ( I read one should NEVER write VERY) is this true?

    My Top 5 are: Lolita, Evening, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Unabridged Diaries of Syliva Plath, and so many more………. Infinity.

    Btw, dear, I LOOOOOOVE your photos on the top. How do I do this? Can you show me? Fabulous feast for the eyes.

    Your website ROCKs just like youuuuu. Xxxx
    My Inner Chick recently posted….An Imitation Life on Carnival Cruise LinesMy Profile

    • Of course, Kim, reading is such a personal experience. It’s why I never recommend books. I like what I like and don’t expect others to. My header you mean? Great tool and easy to use, called Snag it, and super easy to use. Thanks for you virtual hugs and support, you always make me smile. I have not read any of Sylvia’s journals, but one day, maybe. I saw the movie with Gregory Peck, before I read the book. Love both, equally. (once you have snag it, ping me and I will ‘splain,

  12. LONESOME DOVE, of course! If you remember, I have it on my to-read list for this year, and it’d be great reading it on a slow boat. (What a contrast, though: being on a rocky boat surrounded by water while riding horses on dry, dusty lands in my head!) What a lovely conversation you had with your favourite authors. I don’t know if I’d be able to sputter out a word at all, even if it’s a dream, being the bag of wretched nerves I am.
    Claudine Gueh recently posted….The Tear ThiefMy Profile

    • Claudine – that is why this is the beauty of fiction. I doubt I could truly carry off a conversation without sounding, well, kind of crazy or just silly. I hope you enjoy Lonesome Dove. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea. I recommended it once and the reader came back to me and said she HATED IT. Our reading choices are subjective.

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